Books, Authors  & Readers, Oh My!

Book Festival Celebrates Montana’s Rich Literary Scene

Imagine a group of writers so passionate about their work that they stand in a wrestling ring and compete with their best pieces, a few advancing to and one eventually winning the highly anticipated finale. This is what’s known as a Literary Death Match, and it’s one of the many events for lit-lovers taking place at the Montana Book Festival on Sept. 10-12.

Previously known as the Montana Festival of the Book, the newly revamped festival aims “to encourage increased diversity this year among both presenters and attendees. We want to get young people involved and excited, especially students,” says Rachel Mindell, festival coordinator.

With this in mind, they’ve scheduled a UM MFA reading in which current writers in the program are reading from their work as well as a dance party at the VFW sponsored by CutBank, UM’s literary magazine.

Book lovers and/or just dessert enthusiasts should look into Pie & Whiskey, an event being run by Willow Springs editor Sam Lignon and poet/pie baker extraordinaire Kate Lebo and taking place at the Union Club. Five dollars at the door buys a shot of whiskey, a slice of homemade pie, and readings by some of our best regional authors.

And, what better place than a book festival to hear people perform their own true stories? Marc Moss, the founder of storytelling organization “Tell Us Something,” has organized Friday night’s Storyteller Celebration, in which five storytellers are sharing their 10-minute tales from memory before two headlining authors read from their own work.

Local authors and UM faculty Joanna Klink and David Gates are among the writers representing the MFA community by reading from their latest books. Klink’s collection of poems, Excerpts from a Secret Prophecy, and Gates’ novella/short story collection, A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me, were both released earlier this year.

UM alumna Sharma Shields (MFA, 2004) is also attending and reading from her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac, which, according to Kirkus Reviews, is a “mashup of Moby-Dick and Kafka’s Metamorphosis…with a hearty dash of Twin Peaks thrown in.”

Some of the other weekend highlights include literary trivia, films, music, and Montana Public Radio hosting an Evening with Ira Glass. The Missoula Public Library is also sponsoring a children’s festival. MPL director Honore Bray says to look “for some dynamic author programs and activities.”

Missoula, says Mindell, is the perfect place for a new take on an old favorite, since it’s “such a cultural and artistic hub with so many incredible community members who love books and support literacy: So many writers love it here, have lived here, studied here and keep coming back.”

Barbara Theroux, one of the festival organizers and owner of local bookstore Fact & Fiction, says that when she heard “Humanities Montana wasn’t going to be producing the book fair I knew people would be sorry to see it disappear…. Now the festival is alive and well!”

For a full list of events and more information, visit or stop by one of Missoula’s local bookstores.